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John B. OakesJohn B. Oakes
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I was very interested in human rights. And, you know, human rights, in the sense that it's used today, I always was sort of intellectually interested in the rights of people, of human beings, who have certain fundamental rights as guaranteed by the constitution, whether it dealt with color or economic status or freedom of speech or press. I was always interested in that. But, I guess, I got really fired up on this subject. I think first, really, by the plight of displaced persons, refugees at the end of World War II. I had an interest in this problem of human rights, of freedom of person and press long before this, but it became very strong and I got deeply involved just around that time I began to write editorials for the Times. And there were two things I got particularly interested in and did a lot of writing on. One was what I conceived to be the persecution of people for their point of view, and that was what later became the McCarthy situation. But prior to McCarthy I was already interested in trying to defend people I felt were being unfairly or wrongly or improperly accused of having ideas that weren't in the general mainstream. In other words, interference with freedom of speech and thought, and so on. Of course, this suppression was always done in the name of protecting the country from Communism, but I always felt that this was really an excuse for trying to suppress and prevent people from exercising -- I mean, in many cases, obviously, depending upon the case -- from exercising their human right or constitutional right to free speech. My special interest in this had begun even earlier than the post-war years, i.e., when I began reporting on Congress for the Washington Post. And it intensified when I reported on the Dies Committee -- named for its chairman, Representative Martin Dies, Democrat of Texas -- investigations in '39 and '40.

By the way, I have always been less an admirer of Harry Truman as President than most people profess to be, nowadays -- because I felt that Truman really did not act properly as

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